Some games are lost just because you entered a game feeling complacent, and for a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, that should be driven by hunger, revenge and the need to show everyone they are good enough to win an NBA championship, it’s inexplicable to have these kind of games.
The Cavaliers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 106-103 at home. What’s so bad about it? The Grizzlies are a 38-25 team out West, heading to the playoffs despite losing Marc Gasol for the season. But they also played without Zach Randolph in Cleveland. There was no Mike Conley. The Grizzlies started Tony Allen, Mario Chalmers, Ryan Hollins, P.J. Hairston and JaMychal Green, while Lance Stephenson, Vince Carter and Jarell Martin came off the bench. This should have been a blow out. It ended up being slightly embarrassing for the Cavs, now 2.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors.
LeBron James was obviously unhappy with how things unfolded, blaming the team (And who knows, maybe the coach) for simply being unprepared for their opponents. We’re all in this league for a reason. We didn’t respect them tonight and they beat us. I don’t care who you are playing, if it’s my son’s little league team you’re going to lose when you give up that many points off turnovers. We were very careless with the ball, and with our mindset. The Cavs turned the ball over 25 times and shot just 24.1% from beyond the arc.
The Grizzlies had more coaches on the bench than players, but they got everything and more from those who played. Tony Allen scored 26 points. Vince Carter had 15. Stephenson finished with 17, and so did Chalmers. Green finished with 16. The Grizzlies almost lost the game when James put the Cavaliers up by one with 45 seconds to go, but Carter hit four free throws in the closing seconds following a big and-one by Chalmers to seal the win.
James continues to talk abou the Cavaliers being a team that’s figuring things out. But this group has been together for almost two seasons. Tyronn Lue is a new head coach (14-7 since he took over), but it’s not like he came from nowhere to coach this team. He was the assistant coach last season and this season before David Blatt got fired. They should be further along in terms of connecting with each other and knowing what works and doesn’t. Maybe it’s time to go back to a smaller five, with either Kevin Love coming off the bench or Timofey Mozgov sitting out the start, while Love plays the ‘5’.
James finished with 28 points to lead the Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving had 27 but he also turned the ball over 7 times. Love shot just 2-of-9 from the field to finish with 14 points and J.R. Smith was just as bad with 2-for-11, only without getting to the line. The bench didn’t rescue them this time: Tristan Thompson scored 11 points and Iman Shumpert had 9, but Matthew Dellavedova had just 2 and didn’t provide his usual spark while Channing Frye, scoring 2 points, is trying to figure out what he’s doing on this team, that’s headed down a path of playing well most of the time, but never well enough to become champions.